Transatlantic Tales – American Record Guide 74.6 (Nov 2011), by Kenneth Keaton

SILVERMAN: Processional; 3 Guitars; In Shadow; Wilde’s World; Danish Delights; Pregnant Pauses.
By Kenneth Keaton. American Record Guide 74. 6 (Nov 2011):
Corona Guitar Quartet; Maria Sook Garmark, cl; Ninnie Isaksson, v; Marlene Bichel, Sara Fiil, s; Jan Lund, t
Albany 1250-61 minutes

One of Segovia’s life goals was to enrich the guitar repertory with new works from living composers. The tradition continues, and in this case, Volkmar Zimmerman, the leader of the Korona Guitar Quartet of Denmark has inspired several works from New York composer Faye – Ellen Sdverman. I’m happy to say that each of these works is worthy, and most of the performances are quite fine.
Silverman’s style is similar to many of the 20th Century who wrote music that was agreeably dissonant, yet didn’t forsake tonality entirely. Sometimes I hear something of Britten, or perhaps of Bartok – this is the sort of music made by fellow women composers Joan Tower and Ellen Zwdich. Yet Silverman has her own voice, and each of the works has a clear personality.
Processional is her first work for solo guitar. She wanted the piece to sound guitaristic, and it does – remarkably, without sounding Hispanic.
3 Guitars is the most dissonant, and the most interesting, piece here. It was written for the Peabody Conservatory Guitar Ensemble, that was at that time a trio. It is in
arch form, with a fascinating array of sonorities, rhythms, accents, and effects.
In Shadow, a work from Sdverman’ s grad student days, uses the instrumentation of Webern’s Op. 18: soprano, guitar, and clarinet. The texts are dark poems by Emily Dickinson – the composer was responding to the death of a loved one at the time. The piece recalls George Cmmb; it has three songs, each
separated with an instrumental interlude – first guitar, then clarinet. She quotes ‘Skip to My Lou’ in the second song, to represent that life goes on in face of overwhelming grief.
Wilde’s World is a setting of Oscar Wdde’s poem “Roses and Rue”, for tenor, viola, and guitar. It brought to mind Britten’s Songs from the Chinese, perhaps because tenor Jan Lund’s voice is a bit like Peter Pears – and because the guitar and viola are playing counterlines rather than accompaniments.
Danish Delights is another Britten-like song cycle with three songs and an interlude for guitar. Texts are by Sara Teasdale, Corinna, and Thomas Campion. Soprano Sara Fiil has a small sound, but blends well with the guitar.
Finally, we get a three-movement work for the Korona Guitar Quartet, whose players have shared duties on the other works. Pregnant Pauses is, as you might suspect, an exploration of sdences in music. It is a fiendishly difficult work for the ensemble, and there are some rough spots; but overall the
performance is quite exciting.
Silverman is the real discovery here. I’ll seek out some of her other music. She is an inventive, original composer, challenging but not threatening. She
writes well for guitar, and the collective and individual contributions of the Corona Quartet are the best performances here.